I have a whole list of healthy, easy weeknight dinners to post, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Some of them are from the Fine Cooking Cooking Fresh magazine I bought, where they snuck this cake in along with all of the other healthy ways to eat your vegetables. I’ve made this twice now (in the last 2 weeks; I think I might have a problem) and every adult who has tasted it, has taken one bite, stopped, looked at me and said “What is this!?!” around a mouthful of deliciousness (the kids have approached it with their usual “Sugar? White flour? I’m in!” attitude. I think the subtleties may be wasted on them). It’s stop you in your tracks good. Browned butter takes a classic pumpkin/spice/cream cheese combo and makes it something extraordinary. It’s Friday, make a cake, you won’t regret it.
P.S. Don’t skip the topping; it’s amazing. In fact, be like me and make extra so you can keep a little bag of it in the car for grown up snacking emergencies!
2 tsp canola oil
1 medium-large Sugar Pie pumpkin, cut in half and seeded
Preheat oven to 350, brush a 9×13 glass dish with oil and place pumpkin in cut side down. Roast about 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool, then peel the pumpkin and puree the flesh in a food processor.
Alternatively, go to the store and buy a can of pumpkin puree. Open with a can opener. Proceed. Seriously though, I made the puree, it was easy and it made a difference in the cake, but I wouldn’t say it’s a make or break thing. Do what you will.
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups/9 oz unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter 2 9 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter the parchment and flour the pans. (I skipped the parchment the first time and regretted it. This is a VERY moist cake)
2. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Cook until the foaming and sizzling stop and butter turns a deep brown, but not until the bits on the bottom are black. Once the sizzling stops, watch it closely as it goes from perfect to burnt pretty quickly. Pour butter into a small bowl and let stand until cool, but not set.
3. In a medium bowl mix together flour thru cloves. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar thru buttermilk plus 1 1/2 cups of your pumpkin puree (leftover puree can be portioned and frozen) until well blended. Fold in dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined, then gently whisk in the browned butter until completely incorporated.
4. Divide the batter evenly between pans (a kitchen scale helps with this). Bake the cakes until set in the middle and a toothpick comes out clean, about 28 minutes (the temperature outside dropped drastically the day before I made this the second time and I had to cook a few minutes longer, so use your discretion).
5. Let cakes cool in pans on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out and removing the parchment. Let cool completely before assembling the cake.
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pepitas
2 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped candied ginger
Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy bottomed skillet. Add the pecans and pepitas and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pepitas start to pop. Sprinkle in the brown sugar and salt and stir until the sugar dissolves completely and a glaze is formed. Stir in the ginger and remove from the heat. Let cool in the skillet.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese at room temp
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cups icing sugar
1. Brown the butter as you did for the cake. Pour into a small bowl and let stand until settled, 3-4 minutes, then place in the freezer until set, about 20 minutes (it may take a little more or a little less depending on your freezer, but make sure you don’t let it get too hard)
2. Using a spoon, carefully scrape the butter out of the bowl, leaving behind the browned solids on the bottom. In a large bowl and using a hand mixer (the stand mixer didn’t work as well, I ended up with chunks of browned butter that wouldn’t incorporate into the icing) beat the butter until smooth, then add in the cream cheese and brown sugar. Beat until fluffy.
3. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until fluffy.
Assembling Your Cake
Place one cake on a platter (this is what you are serving it on). Spread about 1/2 cup of icing evenly on top, then sprinkle with 1/2 of the topping. Place the second cake on top and ice the top and sides with remaining icing. Decorate with remaining topping. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days – this stayed beautifully in the fridge.